Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (Kino) Blu-ray Review


“No Problem!”

Baby’s star is a doughy-eyed, infant Brontosaurus who often acts like a lost, scared puppy. It’s a kids movie, or it seems as such. To Baby’s credit – and at times discredit – Baby never shows fear with showing violence or raising contemporary themes.

Conservationist Dian Fossey was killed in 1985. Baby (released the same year) uses angst over her death and directs anger toward poachers, willing to draw blood in a heart-breaking sequence of an adult Brontosaur mercilessly gunned down. The infant visibly cries, her sedated mother groaning in protest, unable to fight. A priceless species, ruined by human greed. And that’s Baby at its most unflinching.

Were it only that, the preachy environmentalist saga with two Green Peace stand-ins for heroes, maybe Baby squanders its platform. Baby’s richer than its surface and the cooing, comic relief dinosaur. William Katt stars, a sportswriter living in Africa to support his paleontologist wife (Sean Young). Katt gets a permanent gig, aiming to leave for the States the following day. They never leave the country.

Baby’s richer than its surface and the cooing, comic relief dinosaur

Turns out, this is Sean Young’s movie. She’s Goodall, but for blue dinosaurs instead of apes. In the twist, it’s her career that matters, becoming a sure breadwinner and breaking through the waning social norms of western society. This is a modern career woman.

Katt doesn’t catch on immediately. He’s furious, assuming his bull-headed wife is chasing fantasy and it’s his career that pays bills. On a flight to find her though, Katts asks the pilot what he’d do. “Whip the bitch,” is the reply, causing Katt to realize things progressed and in American society, women earned their place.

Note Baby doesn’t turn against locals. It’s unusually fair. Unknown Kyalo Mativo plays a native tribe leader, an absolute joy when on screen, joining the conservationism cause. Those Africans playing villains do so when under the command of a corrupt American professor (Patrick McGoohan). Baby’s final lines ask if these living dinosaurs can remain a legend. “If we let it be,” says Young, softly suggesting to protect and let things be. Sappy, maybe, if spoken with truth.

Disney produced Baby under the Touchstone label, no doubt with eyes on E.T.’s box office. Bringing elements of classic “Lost World” stories with a modern bridge of environmentalism (plus West African location cinematography) hides the copycat similarities. An injection of King Kong helps too. Rudimentary storytelling and so-so special effects drain Baby’s value, if not its progressive heart.

Video

Mill Creek issued Baby on Blu-ray years ago. Kino takes what looks like the identical master, but patches it with better encoding. The result is something passable and functional, with a fine print avoiding any significant damage. No dirt is evident either.

Unfortunately, because of lagging resolution (this movie is calling out for a new scan), grain subsides to almost nothing. Detail falls, rarely remarkable or precise. Time and effort spent in jungles doesn’t benefit from this transfer, needing a boost in definition and texture. Precision is not this presentation’s strength.

Color fares better, flattened with time yet still enough to earn a pass. Brontosaur blue sticks out from the surrounding greenery. Flesh tones maintain accuracy. Also coming along is bountiful contrast, enriched by stable, deep shadows and opposing African sun. If time took a chunk from detail and color, at least brightness doesn’t pay a similar cost.

Audio

A 5.1 mix sends most audio through a fairly wide front soundstage. Jungle ambiance slips into the surrounds, while most action ignores their presence. For the finale, gunfire sprays in multiple directions, yet only stereos earn work.

Forget low-end too, short of minor thumps when dinos stomp by. More importantly, the mid-’80s audio balances nicely as to not lose any dialog within the action.

Extras

An interview with William Katt is wonderful as he recalls a difficult shoot with hilarious stories – hilarious in retrospect. Having native tribes running a down a hill wanting to kill the entire crew wasn’t so funny then, certainly. It’s a 13-minute chat and worth the time. Director Bill Norton isn’t as open, but also remembers some challenges including the heat during his 10-minutes. The original trailer shows up too.

Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

Baby overtly speaks to the conservation movement of the ’80s, but also slyly displays the progress of women’s work and changing household structure.

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